Senior's strong performance adds promise for Rutgers
As a senior captain, Quentin Gause’s leadership is unquestioned. The strong side linebacker provides a powerful vocal presence to the Rutgers football team’s locker room.
But in his last time out on the field, Gause led by example.
The Scarlet Knights (2-3, 0-2) have shot down the idea of moral victories much to this point of the season — even from their latest loss, a heart-throbbing 31-24 defeat at the hands of then-No. 4 Michigan State.
Despite the lingering sting from a final drive where the Spartans charged 76 yards in 10 plays to score the eventual game-winner with 43 seconds left, the Knights’ defense largely held its own in keeping the contest manageable.
That started with Gause’s career night. In his 44th consecutive game played on the Banks, Gause flew all over the field for Rutgers with his career-high 10 tackles.
“Just continue it,” Gause said of his performance. “And that’s what I’m gonna do, just playing what I do.”
Gause’s modest remarks don’t come as a surprise to assistant head coach Norries Wilson.
“I'm sure there's going to be some mistakes on the film that he's made. But he plays with a lot of emotion and he plays with a lot of heart and the kids know that when it comes from him — it's honest and it's genuine,” Wilson said. “And he's not going to give them something that's not genuine. He's not going to ask his teammates to do something that he's not willing to do himself. We enjoy having him as part of our program.”
The Rochester, New York, native embodied a swarming scheme from defensive coordinator Joe Rossi that sacked Connor Cook once and forced eight quarterback hurries. Gause supplied one of those hurries in addition to plugging the Michigan State run game early on with his two tackles for loss.
But with Indiana (4-2, 0-2) and the Hoosiers’ spread offense waiting for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. ET conference matchup, Gause has already moved on from his last time out on the field.
As promising as the strong side linebacker and Rutgers defense might have looked at times, Gause said the preparation for Indiana’s attack began when the Knights turned the page on Sunday.
“Us, as a defense, we’re moving onto Indiana,” he said. “It already started (Sunday), (studying) some of their plays and stuff. We’re ready to get the ball rolling.”
Sophomore nose tackle Sebastian Joseph, who had a pair of tackles with one for a loss to plug the middle against a Spartans ground game that was held to 3.3 yards per carry, echoed the senior captain’s sentiments.
“I feel as if, if we keep practicing the way we have been this week, that sky’s the limit for our front seven and also for our defense as a whole,” Joseph said. “… We’re ready to get back after it, another intense week with Indiana.”
Another stat sheet tallied with double-digit tackles might not exactly be what Gause has in mind.
But when Rutgers returns to the field later on this week in Bloomington, what he does expect is something that has been a foundation for the team since early August.
“From training camp, I know we have the team to compete in this conference and ever since last year as well,” Gause said. “… Every single game, the team that has the least mistakes is the team that’s gonna win the game. We had a couple. But like I said, we gotta move onto Indiana and focus on them. They’re a great team and we just have to prepare and go out there and be 1-0.”
Going from defending a pro-style attack to a spread offense presents the latest challenge for the Rutgers defense.
One week after Cook carved the Knights for 357 yards and two touchdowns through the air despite one interception and 23-of-38 passing, the Knights hope to cut those numbers down against the Hoosiers.
But with senior Nate Sudfeld and sophomore Zander Diamont both questionable as they receive varied looks in practice this week, Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said redshirt-freshman Danny Cameron would get the nod.
“They’re worked in, so we kind of rotate with them,” Wilson said in the Big Ten Coach’s Week 7 Teleconference on Tuesday. “… Fortunately, I think (Sudfeld and Diamont) both understand they need to practice how they need to practice. But they’re tough enough to know that if they can’t go, they can’t.”
Sudfeld opened the season as the starting quarterback for the Hoosiers before suffering an ankle injury in a narrow 34-27 defeat to No. 1 Ohio State on Oct. 3. Rutgers faced Diamont in last year’s 45-23 Senior Day win over the Hoosiers on Nov. 15, holding him to 15-of-31 passing for 171 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
While the possibility of three quarterbacks keeps the Knights honest in their defensive preparation, Flood feels as if he knows who Indiana will trot out under center come game day.
“My gut tells me Nate’s gonna be healthy and gonna be ready to go,” Flood said during the Big Ten Coach’s Week 7 Teleconference on Tuesday. “He’s a spectacular player when he’s in there and when he was in there at the beginning of the year, did a great job for them — seven touchdowns, only one interception — really makes that offense go.”
On top of his touchdown-to-interception mark, Sudfeld has thrown for 1,277 yards on 87-of-147 passing. Diamont drops off heavily in the pass game going 15-of-31 for 166 yards, doing more with his legs on 18 carries, 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Regardless of who starts for Indiana, Gause said Rutgers would prepare for all three.
“With their quarterback, the second string from last year, we’ve seen him already,” Gause said of Diamont. “We’ve just gotta continue to prepare, watch the film from last year against them and also then compare what they’re doing this year to other teams. We’re just gonna look at the small things and just go off of that.”
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